“I’m a goal-oriented person,” says Mark Yencheske.
That’s a bit of an understatement. On New Year’s Eve, he played a total of three sets, split between Paper Holland and backing duties for Abby Jeanne. That same day, the Milwaukee bassist was also quietly celebrating the release of his debut solo album.
Why would a member of two busy bands with big plans for 2018 take it upon himself to write, record, and release an album before the end of the year? “I wasn’t busy enough,” Yencheske says.
The songwriting process started last January. Once he had the framework established, Yencheske brought in a cast of collaborators to flesh out his material over the summer and record at Howl Street in October. The recordings were mixed at Wire & Vice, mastered at Mystery Room, and were ready to go just before 2018’s arrival.
With Yencheske on upright bass, he called on familiar friends to add strings, horns, drums, and guitar to his vision.
“Steve Peplin and Aaron Gardner are instructors at MATC. Dan Alexander and Waymon Tatum Jr. are fellow alumni, Glenn McCormick is in Paper Holland, and Chauntee and Monique Ross are childhood friends,” Yencheske says. “I wanted everyone involved in this project to be close to me in some way. I needed a personal connection to each musician.”
The final product, Be Easy, is a notable sonic departure from what fans of Paper Holland and Abby Jeanne might expect to hear. The nine-song instrumental release delves confidently into the realm of smooth jazz. The airtight arrangements are accented with a wealth of vibrant horns, warm strings, and splashy percussion. While different than his other projects, Yencheske says this is where he feels most comfortable.
“The project sounds like my internal soundtrack,” Yencheske says. “It feels good to finally let some of it out.”
There are no plans to perform Be Easy live, but Yencheske says he’s going to release some more songs in 2018. “But they probably won’t sound like this project,” he says. Until then, you can listen to the album in its entirety on Spotify, watch videos of live sessions, and trust you’ll be seeing Yencheske a lot this year with Paper Holland and Abby Jeanne.